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Matz not seeing improvement in sore back

Mets growing concerned lefty might not have time to get ready for NLDS start

NEW YORK -- A lack of improvement in Steven Matz's sore back has the Mets increasingly concerned that he will not be ready to pitch in the National League Division Series against the Dodgers.

"The concern level has certainly gone up," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "It hasn't seemed to get better. I probably downplayed it too much at the outset, based on hope rather than information. The fact that it hasn't responded particularly well is concerning, but that doesn't mean that it won't respond quickly over the next few days. These kinds of things are hard to predict."

Originally scheduled to pitch Wednesday against the Phillies, Matz woke up earlier in the week with a sore back. At the time, Alderson said that the "worst-case" scenario would mean pushing Matz's start back to Thursday. But the Mets ultimately scratched that start altogether and made plans to use Matz out of the bullpen this weekend, before scrapping those plans, too.

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"I don't see how he's going to be ready to pitch this weekend," manager Terry Collins said Friday. "They may do something to him and he comes in and says, 'I'm ready to go Sunday,' and we get him some innings. He's got to pitch. He's got to get out there and throw his 100 pitches. If it's not this weekend, then we have to get him to the instructional league and get him some work."

At this point, Matz hasn't appeared in a big league game since Sept. 24, giving up three runs over 5 2/3 innings to the Reds. The instructional league in Port St. Lucie, Fla., would allow him to throw upwards of 100 pitches, gearing him up for a potential start in NLDS Game 4. But it would not recreate the level of competition Matz would have seen this weekend against the Nationals, forcing the Mets to take a leap of faith regarding his readiness against big league hitters.

Both Alderson and Collins indicated that the Mets will be willing to make that leap if they are impressed by Matz's performance in Florida next week -- provided he is able to pitch. But they also openly talked about Bartolo Colon, their contingency plan for Game 4 should Matz be unable to go. The Mets could also decide to carry Matz on their postseason roster as a reliever, though Collins has not been shy in discussing his reluctance to do so because of the rookie's extensive injury history.

"We'll make a judgment at that time based on what we see," Alderson said. "Whether or not he pitches this weekend won't necessarily determine whether he's on the roster or not on the roster."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
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